“I’ve just spent three refreshing weeks in the Philippines where the sun shone, the beaches were fine and the jet skis were fast. But I had time for none of this awesomeness because I was on a diet and I had to count calories.”
Does that ring the bell?
Some people find they can count calories consistently and it doesn’t cause them stress. For others, it creates stress and it feels like they would rather feed their toes to a lawnmower than count calories.
So we have two scenarios here:
- You’ve tried counting calories but you found that you’d have more luck getting your three-year-old son to speak Greek—it was painfully inconvenient, stressful, and distracting. What now? How do you lose weight without tracking calories?
- You’ve tried counting calories and it was habitual—easy peasy lemon squeezy. You lost weight & achieved your goal body weight. But you may have developed some unwanted behaviors e.g. not being mindful or ignoring internal hunger & satiety cues. How do you loosen things up without gaining the weight back?
Park yourself on the couch for ~4 minutes because I’m about to tell you what to do in those two scenarios. Here goes…
1. I’ve Tried Tracking Calories. It Sucked Balls—More Pain Than I Was Willing To Tolerate. What Now, Egis?
So this is the first scenario where you strictly controlled your caloric intake and 7 different kinds of shitty things happened—it was inconvenient, stressful, distracting, and extremely difficult while traveling.
How do you now become a fat-burning furnace without counting calories?
You can still lose weight but you will need to have some rules for eating that would help you create a caloric deficit. Because remember—fat loss can only occur if you are in a state of a caloric deficit.
Even if you aren’t counting calories, THEY STILL COUNT.
Here are some tips for creating a caloric deficit without counting calories:
- Eat 3-4 meals per day and keep a regular schedule
Having some kind of structure in your diet takes the guesswork out of your hands. If you have 3 main meals a day and make them balanced (here’s how to make a balanced meal that hits your macros), you’ll end up eating ~1,500 kcal/day. Enough to lose weight for most earthlings (unless you’re used to eating the world’s food resources like Pac-Man).
- Avoid mindless snacking
It drives me bugshit bonkers when people tell me they are trying to lose weight but then snack on nuts all day long to keep them “full” and healthy. Those two or three handfuls of almonds they eat as snacks add over 400 calories to their daily intake.
All the numerous little bites and tastes you don’t even notice add up throughout the day. Stick to your regular meal times and if you want snacks, eat something with low-caloric value and high food volume (e.g. fruits).
Further Reading: 5 Strategies To Stop Mindless Eating
- Limit eating out to 1-2x per week
Restaurant meals can look healthy and unprocessed but the way food is prepared makes caloric control almost impossible. Restaurants—like Mufasa told Simba: Stay the fuck away from there.
- Make sure you have a lean protein with every meal
A high protein diet is more likely to make you feel satiated, making you less likely to overeat. Protein also has the highest thermic effect of all macronutrients. Meaning, your body burns significantly more calories digesting protein rather than fats and carbs.
- Make sure you have a fruit or veggie with every meal
Fruits & veggies offer high food volume, high water, and fiber content—all of which determine satiety.
Just don’t eat spinach. It tastes like feet being gently marinated in your own sweat. No spinach. Maybe one leaf.
- Keep your fat portions small as fat calories can add up quickly
Protein and carbs come with 4 calories per gram. Fat—9 kcal/gram. This can easily build a hill of calories.
- Drink zero-calorie beverages if you need something other than water
Unless you’re out with friends enjoying a few alcoholic drinks, wasting calories on liquids is idiocy on a scale so vast it beggars belief.
- Drink a large glass of water before every meal to help you feel full faster
As you can see, there are all kinds of methods you can use to accomplish caloric deficit which doesn’t involve counting calories. If you are not focused on getting stage-lean, focus on learning the basics of nutrition and how to eat a healthy and balanced diet.
2. I’ve Tried Tracking Calories. I loved it. I Lost Weight. But I Don’t Want To Track Them Forever. Ideas, Egis?
In my opinion, calorie counting is probably the best thing you can do for your nutritional knowledge. You’ll never learn more about nutrition than by tracking and understanding what’s in your food.
However, calorie counting is just A TOOL. You shouldn’t use it forever because it’s a TEMPORARY DISCIPLINE, not a life sentence. The goal is to eventually become comfortable and have a solid understanding of nutrition to not have to track every morsel you eat throughout each day.
So if you lost weight but you’re sick of meticulously tracking your food and you want to transition back to more “intuitive” eating without gaining the weight back, here’s how you’re going to do it:
- Go one week without counting calories.
If you’re OCD like I used to be, this might be a little eye-watering experience. But don’t wuss out. Give it at least a week. Assuming you don’t eat an entire cow, it’s hard to gain much if any fat in one week.
Further Reading: How Much Fat Do You Gain When You Overeat?
- Try it for another week.
If you find that the number on the scale isn’t climbing up (some weight gain after losing weight is normal) and you enjoy “freestyling,” keep doing it for another week.
- If after going at least two weeks without tracking…
…you feel no anxiety around food and you like this more relaxed way of eating, you’re ready to go back to enjoying food without thinking about how many grams of carbs, protein, and fat you eat.
I believe that the best thing you can do to improve your fat loss journey is learning how to track calories and proper portion sizes. It works extremely well for some people. I have clients who’ve been doing it with no problems for months.
But if you started tracking and you found yourself canceling plans and avoiding family gatherings to avoid being around food because you feel you would “lose control,” you better use the above tips and stay the hell away from calorie counting.
If you join my coaching program, I’ll show you how to transform your nutrition, body, and lifestyle so that you never struggle with your weight ever again.